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COVID-19 is a disease caused by the relatively new virus SARS-CoV-2, and experts are still learning a lot about it. Many people have reported a wide range of symptoms — and for some people, there have been no symptoms at all.

There have been a few cases of ear pain or infections alongside a COVID-19 infection, which we’ll explore in this article.

Middle ear infections, known as otitis media, are common complications of colds. This is because viruses in your nose and throat can cause fluid buildup and bacteria growth, leading to ear pain and infection.

While ear infections may be linked to colds, they aren’t always caused by them. In some cases, a virus causes fluid buildup, and bacteria in that fluid results in an infection. The same is true with COVID-19.

COVID-19 and ear infections have some overlapping symptoms, so it’s not unrealistic to link congestion from a COVID-19 infection to the later development of an ear infection.

Even if COVID-19 does not directly cause ear infections for most people, they could develop as a secondary infection to congestion. A

As new variants of the virus emerge and long-term complications become clearer, the true link between ear infections and other ear concerns related to COVID-19 may become more obvious.

Ear infections and COVID-19 share a number of symptoms, like fever and headache. Yet, as with many health conditions, everyone can experience different symptoms even if they have the same condition.

The most common symptoms of ear infections include:

The most common symptoms that have been reported in COVID-19 infections include:

However, with each variant of COVID-19, new and unique symptoms seem to be added to the list. Less common symptoms of COVID-19 that have been reported include:

Very few cases of people with COVID-19 have featured ear or hearing concerns. But as time goes on, more and more cases of COVID-19 with ear problems are appearing.

In a small postmortem study in July 2020, collections of the COVID-19 virus were observed in the ear. However, the researchers aren’t yet sure why this happens or the significance of this finding.

For some people, ear problems related to COVID-19 don’t usually involve infection but rather sudden and unexplained hearing loss.

Such cases have been noted in India and the United Kingdom. Even when hearing loss wasn’t noticeable, testing revealed at least some level of cochlear damage.

The researchers suggest that these cases could be linked to the body-wide inflammation that occurs in COVID-19 infections, but more wide-scale studies are needed to made reliable conclusions.

SymptomsCOVID-19Ear infection
headacheyesyes
feveryesyes
fatigue and irritabilityyesyes
chillsyesyes
nasal congestionyesyes
loss of taste or smellyesno
loss of hearingyesyes
sore throatyesno
coughyes
shortness of breathyesno
nausea or diarrheayesno
drainage from the earnoyes

Ear infections are common in children because the tubes that drain fluid away from their ears are shorter, more horizontal, and narrower than those of adults.

When these tubes — called the eustachian tubes — don’t work well, fluid can build up in the ears and increase the risk of infection.

On top of that, children’s immune systems are not as developed as adults and can’t fight off infections as well.

As little research as there has been on ear infections and hearing loss with COVID-19, there has been even less in children. What is known is that COVID-19 infections are generally mild in most children, even though transmission has increased among kids with each virus mutation.

For both ear infections and COVID-19, supportive care is helpful in easing symptoms. Watchful waiting is usually suggested, especially when a viral cause of ear infection is suspected.

However, there may be some patients with other health concerns who do need antibiotics sooner. There are no approved medications to treat COVID-19 at home.

The focus for managing each of these conditions should be on relieving symptoms and increasing comfort as you heal.

Here are some suggestions to help treat ear infections at home:

For mild COVID cases, management is similar to that of a cold or the flu. Suggestions include:

It can also help to support your immune system with good nutrition, exercise, and vitamins in either case.

If you experience severe fever or shortness of breath — especially with COVID-19 — be sure to get medical care right away.

While it is possible that COVID-19 can impact your ears and possibly even cause ear infections, more research is needed to determine the cause and frequency.

In the meantime, there are several symptoms — like fever and headache — that overlap between ear infections and COVID-19, but there is no cure for either condition.

Supportive care at home is best for ear infections and COVID-19, unless your symptoms get more severe over time. In that case, contact your doctor or, if you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.